On January 20, Donald Trump’s era as the US president ends, and Joe Biden’s begins with a mammoth of challenges to confront. Trump’s four years in the Oval Office has been one of the most contentious and scandalous in the history of the United States, dividing the country in millions along political and racial lines.
In 2016 when Trump became the 45th president of the United States, the world’s most powerful nation was leading the world on many fronts; economically and otherwise. The pacesetter in global affairs just had eight years of leadership that most of the world didn’t scorn and frown much about under Barack Obama. From its great depression, America rose to economic figures that did not only bring the jobs back, but also set the country on the path of a great economic future.
Well, the tide turned from 2016. There was a new sheriff in town who came with unpopular ideas and gospel that turned things around, and consequently set the country on four years of upheaval that will need many years of healing.
Outside the US, many countries were forced to reckon with the new dawn of not leaning on America, or following her leadership. It was birthed under the “America First” mantra, which changed the status quo which had kept many of her allies close.
The popular immigration ban on selected African and Islamic countries was the first punch on a global stage, but it was a warm up to other events that left the world in bewilderment. Trump had promised to build a wall along the US-Mexico border during his campaign, a promise which was appealing to many of his supporters. It was part of his immigration policy aimed at keeping terrorists, criminals and illegal immigrants away from the United States.
But it went further than that; Trump attempted to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a first-time applicant program that protects immigrants from deportation and grants work permits to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. He also made executive order blocking the H-1B visas for foreign skilled workers, and L visas, for managers and specialized workers being transferred within a company. He was widely regarded as anti-immigration – a foundation American strength was built on.
Then there was a spike in racial conflicts, fueled by Trump’s white-leaning rhetoric that somehow reignited white supremacy activism. The death of George Floyd, a Black American who was suffocated by the police, among many other similar cases was seen as indications of racist upsurge in Trump’s era.
Amidst the chaos, America was battling with COVID-19, a novel virus which originated in China and swept through the rest of the world unprecedentedly, becoming a pandemic. It was tightening its grip on the United States, putting Trump’s leadership to the test.
In the early days of the disease, while other nations were taking safety measures to curtail it, the president was downplaying it, disputing scientific recommendations, making unfounded claims like touting hydroxychloroquine and bleach as a cure. Trump encouraged anti-masking and mocked those who sought to wear masks. COVID-19 thus got on a transmission spree in the US, overwhelming hospitals and filling the morgues.
By April 2020, the pandemic had claimed more than 50,000 American lives; a milestone many thought would force Trump to change his approach. He did change it anyway by attacking China and the World Health Organization. He used the phrase “China virus” to indicate China’s culpability and accused the WHO of bias toward China.
In one of Trump’s most bizarre decisions as American president, he severed WHO’s relationship with United States and halted its funding, just as he did earlier pulling the US out of the Paris Accord, a line of action approved by world leaders against climate change. The decision shocked the whole world as it happened in the middle of a global health crisis.
Toward the end of his presidency, COVID-19 had claimed more than 400,000 American lives. His complacency in tackling the pandemic is believed to be a major reason he lost the Nov. 3 election. However, Trump wouldn’t accept the result of the election, claiming it was a “rigged and stolen election”, stirring agitation among his supporters based on conspiracy theories.
On Jan. 6, on the day his opponent, Joe Biden would be certified winner by the Electoral College, Trump instigated an insurrection in the US Capitol in a bid to stop Biden from being certified and thus overturn the result of the election. The insurrection has become his greatest undoing as the president of the United States, and thus led to his second impeachment; he became the first American president to be impeached twice. His earlier impeachment had happened in December 2019, a development he described as political “witch hunt.”
As the clock ticks to the end of Trump’s four years in the White House, it points to an end to an era of controversies as never seen before in the history of American presidents, which is believed to have set a trajectory of gloom future for American democracy if it is not righted.
Though there were good records to Trump’s name; for instance, he brokered relative peace between Middle East countries, Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar etc. can now punch in their respective international dialing codes and add their respective airports to their itinerary. But other events, especially during the final days of his presidency have overshadowed them.
Trump’s parting style broke the tradition that has endured for ages. His decision to skip his successor inauguration is seen as the final nail on the coffin of the division he has fanned over the years. But to millions of his supporters, he is a hero, whom they would vote for if he decides to take another shot at the presidency in 2024. To others, Trump is an example of what no American president should ever be.
It is in this state of chaos that the incoming president Biden will begin his four-year job in Washington. His job, which topmost is saving the United States from the deadly coronavirus, also involves leading the country back to the corridors that put her in the forefront of global leadership.
Biden said he would begin his journey as the 46th president of the United States by rescinding many of the controversial executive orders of his predecessor. As Trump era ends in Chaos, Biden’s is beginning with hope of healing and restitution.